After collectiong sperm from a male lion, the team gauged the hormone levels of eligible females through blood samples to see when they would be well-suited to carrying the cubs. The only requirement was training the lionesses to rest next to a fence so that they could readily provide samples. Previous methods would have required moving the lions out of their existing habitat. Here, the females could stay in their existing environment.
Not everyone is happy with the development. Animal welfare groups have argued that South Africa's captive lion breeding revolves around tourism and trade, not conservation. The researchers see things differently, though. In a chat with AFP, study scientist Imke Lueders saw artificial insemination as "another tool in our conservation box" that could keep the lion population going. Wild lion populations have plunged 43 percent in the past 20 years. Technology might be vital to keeping the species going. The technique could also help boost the populations for cheetahs and other big cats whose survival isn't guaranteed.